Switzerland has decided to deploy immediately to Haiti an emergency rapid deployment team of 18 persons. Humanitarian aid shipments are also in preparation.
An unusually strong earthquake measuring over 7 points on the Richter scale (according to the US earthquake monitoring agency, USGS), in the night from Tuesday to Wednesday, has caused enormous damage in Haiti. The epicentre was located some 20 km west of the capital city, Port-au-Prince. The quake has caused heavy destruction and left a still unknown number of victims.
Switzerland immediately offered its assistance to the Haitian government the night of the earthquake. Following discussions with the UN and partner organizations, the decision was made to send an emergency rapid deployment team. The team is made up of 18 experts from the Confederation's Humanitarian Aid unit, including specialists in logistics, security, water supply and emergency shelter. The team's departure is planned for Thursday morning.
An advance reconnaissance team made up of five experts from Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) and an expert from the UN was already flown to Haiti on Wednesday morning by the Swiss air rescue organization REGA.
In addition, a humanitarian aid shipment (including medicines, plastic tarps and hygiene kits) is being prepared in collaboration with the Swiss Red Cross, a member organization of Swiss Rescue. The relief goods are now being assembled, for shipment on Friday. Also being examined is the purchase of additional relief goods in the neighbouring Dominican Republic.
Further measures (for survival assistance and reconstruction) are currently being evaluated. Decisions on these will be reached in the coming days.
The Confederation's Humanitarian Aid unit is maintaining constant contact with the local Programme Office of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), local partner organizations (UN, ICRC, relief organizations), and the Swiss Embassy in Port-au-Prince. The Embassy staff has been reinforced by an additional five colleagues from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Some 150 Swiss citizens live in Haiti. At present, we have no indication of any persons of Swiss nationality being among the victims. The Department of Foreign Affairs has nevertheless set up a Hotline. Family members interested in further information may receive assistance by calling 0041 31 325 33 33.